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Thursday, 19 December 1912

Senator STEWART (Queensland) . - I am in favour of encouraging Australian industries by means of bounties, and I would remind honorable senators that there is hardly an industry in the Commonwealth which has not, at some period, been assisted by the State: I consider that this policy, instead of being restricted, should be extended ; and my principal objection is that the Government have not seen' fit to go far enough in the direction of granting bounties. So far as the wool-top industry is concerned, although Senator Millen has been at great pains to obtain certain information, it would appear. that he cannot supply the real facts. I have had an opportunity of reading extracts from a prospectus issued by Messrs. Hughes Limited. The company has been floated with a nominal capital of ,£200,000, of which £150,000 is to be called up. At the time the prospectus was issued £110,000 worth of shares had been allotted. It was stated in the prospectus that an annual profit of £50,000 was anticipated when the works got into full swing. There is no 6 per cent. about that. The amount represents 331/3 per cent. on the total capital of£150,000.

Senator Findley -The company was not formed solely for the manufacture of wool tops and wool exportation.

Senator STEWART - The extracts I read dealt almost entirely with the wooltop business. I confess I know very little about this company. It has been stated that they employ 700 hands, and pay good wages. Furthermore, it is claimed that they treat a large quantity of greasy wool which would otherwise be sent out of the country in its natural state. It would, therefore, appear that the industry is a good one, and the only question is whether we are paying too much for it. I sympathize with Senator Millen's demand for further information. If the company are paying high dividends, they should not require a subsidy. It is only fair that when the State is subsidizing an industry it should know, not only the conditions of labour, but how much capital is invested in the industry.

Senator Long - The company earned 4 per cent. less in 191 1 than in1910, when it made10 per cent.

Senator STEWART - When one takes into consideration the risks of the trade, the depreciation of machinery, and all that sort of thing, 6 per cent. is a very moderate dividend ; indeed, it is not enough. But, in any case, I sympathize with the Leader of the Opposition in his demand for more information; but I do not denounce a bounty of this kind. By all means let us have the bounty, and more and more bounties, so long as we are careful to ascertain that we are not subsidizing people who do not need assistance. In Australia there are many industries which do require help, but which are not being helped at present. The cotton industry is one which I think ought to be encouraged. It would be one of our greatest industries if it were properly taken in hand.

Senator Pearce - The manufacture or the growing of cotton?

Senator STEWART - First, the growing of cotton, and afterwards the manufacture of it. This departure in regard to wool tops is one in the direction of home manufacture. Instead of sending our wool abroad in the grease, we are sending a proportion of it abroad as wool tops. That is one step. The next operation, I hope, will be that we shall subsidize the export of wool in wool tops. I find that wool is bought at from 9d. to10d. a pound, and that in the process of being turned into tops it loses half its weight. It practically costs1s. 8d. a pound, which, of course, includes the cost of the labour, and as tops it is sold at from 2s. to 2s. 2d. per lb., so that the profit does not seem to be a very extravagant one. If the people who are running the company are to be believed, it is not in a very strong position; but in any case we ought to have definite and clear information on the point. There are always wheels within wheels, and it is very difficult to discover how things are going. I find that Hughes Limited are in the habit of buying live sheep. The primary desire of the company in getting the sheep, I believe, is for the skins and the wool. It sells the mutton at a lower rate, I am told, in the market than does the Meat Ring which exists in Sydney. I have been wondering whether that fact is not responsible for a great deal of the criticism which has been directed against the company here to-day. It is well known that in Sydney there is a company which exists for no other purpose than to increase the price of meat to the public. It is a company owned by the pastoralists of Australia, and it keeps up the price of meat most effectively. I have been wondering whether Hughes Limited have run foul of this Meat Ring, because, if so, that is one explanation for the hostility.

Senator Findley - There is no doubt on that point, because the Meat Ring deputationized the Minister of Trade and Customs, and wanted the bounty abolished.

Senator STEWART - Here we have confirmation of my impression. Honorable senators who care to look up the " Wildcat " column of the Sydney Bulletin will find the actions of this company most vigorously dissected. My objection to this measure is that it does not go far enough. We have several industries - the production of coffee and cotton, more especially the latter - which ought to receive at the earliest moment, the attention of the Federal Government. We are now the greatest wool-producing country in the world, and no doubt, within a comparatively short period, if we are at all careful to utilize natural opportunities, we shall also be the controllers of the cotton market of the world. I trust that this Government, or some other Government, will, in the very near future, take this matter vigorously in hand. I think that a very large part of Northern

Australia could be devoted to the production of the commodities I have just mentioned.

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